Brexit: What's Race Got To Do With It?

  • 2016-07-06
  • The npr

On Thursday night, the votes poured in: After months of debate, the United Kingdom officially voted to leave the European Union in a referendum nicknamed "Brexit."

Shortly after the results were made public, Prime Minister David Cameron announcedthat he would leave office in October. Global stocks tanked, and the British pound crashed to a 31-year low. World leaders from the U.S. to Japan to Germany spoke outabout the far-reaching effects the referendum would have.

The scale of this reaction was predictable — after all, the U.K. joined the EU's predecessor, the EEC (European Economic Community), back in 1973 and has been one of its most influential members for decades. As the (now formerly!) fifth-largest economy in the world, even moderate changes in Britain's political stance affect global markets.

So why did the U.K. vote for something so politically and economically disruptive? Some say race has a lot to do with it — specifically, the racial tension that has resulted from the U.K.'s recently welcoming in record numbers of immigrants. In 2015, 630,000 foreign national migrants came to the U.K. from both inside and outside the EU. This year, the U.K. has ushered in an additional 333,000.